Every holiday brings a veritable retail extravaganza that only seems to increase with each year. Most recently, the preponderance of social media has put the pedal to the metal for this phenomenon.
We’ve all rolled our eyes at the Halloween candy that starts appearing on shelves in August, or the viral videos of crowds making the entryways of chain stores look like the Battle of Helm’s Deep at 12:01 am on Black Friday. Those occurrences aren’t going away — but nor is brands’ participation in them exactly going to help them attract consumers that shy away from such overt displays of rabid consumerism. When it comes to capitalizing on the holidays, the more savvy retailers succeed by treating them as online trends.
One network that has certainly gotten this formula right is Pinterest. As an emerging platform in 2010, Pinterest saw early success in driving consumers to make online and offline purchases from its huge database of aspirational images from across the Web. The website attracted female users early on and, as of September 2014, nearly 42 percent of female Internet users were on the platform. If you consider Facebook the past — a documentation of what you have done — and Twitter the present — an instant catalogue of what you are doing right now — Pinterest is decidedly the future: a collection of things you intend to do or own at some point down the line.
The not-so-best-kept secret of advertising on Pinterest is that it doesn’t feel like advertising — because, in most cases, it literally isn’t. The platform simply provides a forum upon which consumers can share their interests — places, things and activities — with friends and followers. And if those friends and followers happen to like what they see, they repost it (repin, in Pinterest’s case) for their friends and followers to see…and on and on it goes. The built-in magic for brands using Pinterest is that all consumer-posted pins that include any of their goods or services lead right back to their own websites…where of course purchases can be made.
Relying on this organic growth for the first few years of its climb to social network dominance, Pinterest has unveiled a number of paid tools for advertisers in recent quarters. Promoted pins were released from an eight-month beta in late December of 2014, giving more brands paid access to users they identify as their target audience based on preferences, profiles and pinning history. And just last month, the company unveiled Buyable Pins, which remove friction from the path from pin to purchase. While these updates continue to make Pinterest an attractive channel for retailers, the core strategies that drive success for brands remain the same: curating a robust stream of highly desirable and topical content.
Pinterest definitely changes with the seasons — and therefore the holidays — and the most eagle-eyed brands understand that. Not only have eCommerce sites had to alter the code on their pages to make images visible to the Pinterest bookmarklet tool, they also need to create and maintain their own presence on the platform to help guide pinners to their latest offerings.
Which brings us to the Fourth of July: that star-spangled holiday that is synonymous with barbecues, fireworks and good old American fun. And there is no shortage of pins to offer up backyard inspiration (and things to buy) for the big day.
We went in search of retailers getting it right on Pinterest this time of year and all year long. Here’s what we found:
Whole Foods (Pinterest followers: 260K+)
Despite some recent hiccups, this healthful grocer has for years dominated the niche market of mindful, upscale food shoppers. The company’s Pinterest strategy is tailored to fit the essence of its communal approach to sourcing and offering their food — and its strategy can easily be emulated by other brands. Guest pinners power their Savoring Summer board with well-known food bloggers, who bring their own followings and eager energy, contributing to a super fresh feed. But the brand also takes a step in the right direction by creating original content, often in the form of how-to infographics, that make their feed feel original and exclusive.
Martha Stewart Living (Pinterest followers: 724K+)
Pinterest is the perfect platform for this brand founded on the persona of an as-perfect-as-they-come lifestyle guru. Beginning with a series of books on entertaining, the Martha Stewart brand has expanded widely to offer a line of linens and home decor for Macy’s, stationary, multiple publications, and a popular television program starring Ms. Stewart herself. If Pinterest is about aspiration, then the Martha Stewart boards represent the height of that pursuit. The company clearly knows its brand and understands what its Pinterest audience wants, offering boards that feature stunning and clean photography, are updated often, and cover the gamut of cooking, crafting and home-making. And they are doing something right: as of November 2013, Pinterest drove 58 percent of the overall referral traffic to the Martha Stewart Living site – that’s way more than Facebook, which accounted for 23 percent comparatively. This is a feed to watch if you’re looking for how to get to best navigate social commerce — and its Fourth of July board is no exception.
Anthropologie (Pinterest followers: 545K+)
Although the brand chooses to take a subdued approach to the Fourth of July holiday with its Color Us Indigo board, Anthropologie knocks it out of the park on Pinterest pretty regularly. With finely curated boards, a large catalogue of merchandise that updates frequently and an avid following on the platform, the brand is getting a lot right in drawing consumers to the social media board. One of the secrets to its success has been a semi-reguar series of contests and giveaways on the platform. In May of 2014 the company put together a contest to attract and learn about new pinners, asking them to share a pin on their summer inspiration board and complete a brief survey in exchange for a chance to win $500 at Anthropologie. Promoted across various social platforms including Facebook and Twitter, the event was a great example of how brands can use the platform to learn about consumers’ behaviors and interests when it comes to products they covet.
Betty Crocker (Pinterest followers: 176K+)
An “old school” brand, to say the least, but one that paved the way for those like Martha Stewart Living, and it is still going strong in the modern era of social media. Perhaps because Betty Crocker has been a do-it-yourself mainstay since before DIY was in the common vernacular, its Pinterest presence has a direct and highly attainable quality to it that caters to its loyal audience and its Fourth of July board, “Red, White and Blue” stays true to those values. Cooking sites have done exceptionally well on the platform with large distributors like Nestle and Kraft seeing huge amounts of consumer traffic driven to their sites, thanks to savvy strategies that hinge on seasonal menus and ingredients. In this way, these American food brand staples are able to take a new place in the kitchens (and connected devices) of at-home cooks and earn valuable brand affinity points with consumers.
Lowe’s (Pinterest followers: 3.4M+)
Need to fix that deck before the family comes over for the holiday barbecue this weekend? (Well, jeez, you certainly have put that off until the last minute). Check out Lowe’s Pinterest boards for easy fixes to your backyard ills. While admittedly more seasonal than Fourth-of-July-specific, this home improvement retailer knows that many hosts are looking to up their backyard game before friends and family descend for the festivities. From “Gardening Tips” to “Patio Paradise” to “It’s Grill Time,” Lowe’s displays a natural balance between trending search topics and the products that it offers. DIY has had a strong foothold on the network since its humble beginning, and largely dominates the Pinterest network to this day. DIY pins are among those credited for allowing Pinterest to double its usership in the U.K. in the past year alone. Of those new U.K. adopters, nearly 54 percent have logged on to the network via mobile only. Unlike Facebook, which recently cited long load times of media as one of the primary challenges it is looking to solve in the near future, Pinterest offers a highly visual in-app experience that makes it extremely mobile browser friendly.
With the release of Buyable Pins, brands that have ignored the network up until now will surely find themselves scrambling to create a presence on the platform. Those brands will want to take a page from the Pinterest accounts above to engage consumers, drive traffic and make sales.
Looking for more business strategies to apply to your Pinterest program? Pinterest runs an exceptional business blog full of tips for brands looking to find traction on the platform. Something to talk about at next year’s Fourth of July barbecue, perhaps.